You’ve probably been picturing me like the little Dutch boy with his finger stuck in the dike, holding off impending disaster by plugging my heat pump leak with an index finger since last Wednesday. But no, that’s not it.
Wednesday afternoon I walked my kids over to the neighbor’s house, came home to curling iron my hair, dot some makeup on my aging face and pull on some black pants. The sun warmed the air with half-hearted strength. Summer is ending. I wore a sweater.
Cars jammed the parking lot, even though I had arrived twenty minutes early. I joined a line that snaked across the asphalt. I had no idea why I was standing in line nor did I ask or speak to the couple in front of me, even though I knew them and I’d just spoken to the woman earlier in the week about becoming my daughter’s preschool teacher. After some minutes, a man appeared on the steps above us and announced that due to the length of the line, we were invited to just come inside and sign the guestbook on our way to the reception.
I walked up to the front row and sat between my husband and my friend. She said, “There are no tissues to be found in this church!” and I opened my purse and handed her three. My husband patted my knee.
The funeral celebrated the life of a father–almost exactly the age of my own deceased father who was born fourteen days before Jeff’s birth on September 15, 1942–husband, grandfather and friend. I bit the inside of my cheek to stop myself from tearing up, but this strategy failed completely during the congregational singing of “There is a Redeemer,” a song written and recorded by the late Keith Green.
By the time we sang, “When I stand in glory, I shall see His face . . .” the lump in my throat convulsed and burst into a sob. I couldn’t catch my breath and then I held my breath on purpose, thinking that I could prevent what Oprah calls “The Ugly Cry” if only I didn’t breathe. As the music flowed, I remembered that I had to breathe and that breathing would keep my heart beating in rhythm and if my heart continued to beat I would not collapse in tears, never to stop crying again.
So, I told myself, “Breathe,” and I did. I gulped in air, bit my lip and gathered my composure as the song ended.
Why does music unravel my soul?
My husband spoke eloquently about his friend and I understood for the first time how deeply this loss affected him. When Jeff’s children spoke, I could hardly bear it. I felt their loss as a daughter who lost her own father, and yet I rejoiced with them because their father had lived his life with such joy and with a lack of regret, unlike my own father.
I did not speak at my own father’s funeral, nor could I have managed. I admired these three grown kids who loved their father freely, who embraced the love he gave them. I also listened with some envy–their father lived 18 years longer than mine did. If your father is still alive, if your mother is still alive, be grateful. I had my own father for only 24 years.
Two of his children sang and again, I cried. By the time theended, showing picture after picture of Jeff with his family through the years, my three tissues were wet wads, useless.
When the funeral ended, I hugged the widow and then I had to hurry home to my children. Life resumed, regular precious life.
The rest of the week has been unremarkable, as life does after a crisis. A second repairman came to look at the heat pump and fix what the first repairman had been unable to solve in two visits. I helped the young moms of the church paint the nursery. The ceiling hole remains and we are reduced to sharing one bathroom with its inadequate. I’ve taken baths again which reminds me of college when I had no choice; the entire girls’ dorm only had bathtubs without showers.
I’ve taken my daughter to the pool where she swims in near solitude. The summer crowds have thinned. Everyone has abandoned summer for fall, even though the calendar offers us a few remaining summer days. I’ve been cleaning bedrooms, vacuuming happily with my new vacuum cleaner, worrying a little about the school year, neglecting my own mother, planning a birthday party for my daughter which will take place on my dead father’s sixty-fifth birthday.
I’m drifting in a swirl of sorrow and monotony with spots of joy here and there like lumps in a batter. This is life and as happens from time to time, I am painfully aware of its rushing current which drags some of us out to sea and some of us to shore, while most of us bob in the waves, feeling no current, but only motion.
And my email box is stuffed full and I can’t seem to catch up.